New parking ordinance for the Square to be created by Downtown Parking Commission

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The picture of what life will be like parking on the Square once the parking garage is open became clearer on Tuesday.

The Board of Aldermen cleared the way for the Downtown Parking Commission to begin the process of creating a new ordinance that will set parking prices downtown.

The commission chairman, Tom Sharpe, met with the Board during a budget session on Monday, proposing the recommended prices for parking permits and metered spaces. Sharpe then spoke before the Board during Tuesday’s meeting, where they approved a request to allow the commission to begin working on the ordinance.

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“Our goal as a Board, which has been stated numerous times, is to pay for the parking garage with parking revenues (and) not to use general operating funds to support the bond payment of the parking garage,” Mayor Robyn Tannehill said. “That is why this has just been a puzzle that has been moved around and changed. …This commission has met for years discussing and moving different parts and changing different pieces and working with consultants to come up with what we believe to be the best guess as what people’s parking habits and what these rates will generate.”

Two types of permits will be available – standard and premium – which will also come in varying times of use. A permit for Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. will be offered. Both permits are good for one month. The commission did not want to sell an annual pass at the start, as it would “lock us in” for a year and make them lose the ability to make adjustments, Sharpe told the Board.

The premium weekday permit will be $80 a month, and the premium all-access permit will cost $100 a month. Those with the premium permit will be able to park in any spot that is not metered and on the first floor of the parking garage. Standard permits will cost $50 a month for weekday and $70 a month for all-access. The standard permit grants parking in lots behind City Hall, the previous Department of Human Services building and the surface lots that will surround the parking garage.

In the revenue model being used by the commission, the first floor of the parking garage will cost $1 an hour to park for anyone who does not have a permit. The second through fourth floors of the garage will be free to park all day.

The parking lots by City Grocery, High Cotton, City Hall and Something Southern will cost 75 cents an hour, as will the spaces on 11th Street, Jackson Avenue, Monroe Avenue and Harrison Avenue. On-street parking on Courthouse Square, Jackson Avenue, North and South Lamar Boulevard, South 11th Street, Van Buren Avenue and Tyler Avenue will cost $1.25 an hour.

“These are all projects and we’ll know once people actually work through how they’re going to park, which kind of permits they want or not, only then will we see how the situation actually evolves,” Sharpe said. “Then we can make adjustments after that based upon how people act.”

The commission will proceed to form a new ordinance that will then be presented to the Board for a first and second reading, with a public hearing attached to the second reading. A vote could take place following a second reading and public hearing, but the Board could also ask for a third and final reading before taking a vote.

The ordinance will go into affect once the parking garage is open, which is scheduled for Sept. 24.